Cognitive Cities Conference – a partly true utopia

Last Friday I arrived in Hamburg at 7 am after 2 fantastic weeks in New York with my girlfriend (report is coming soon). After a few hours, which basically consisted of switching suitcases and doing laundry, I headed to Berlin for the Cognitive Cities Conference. I was one of the organizers. But more or less just a support for an awesome team. Honestly, the organization was incredibly good. Respect to all of them: Igor, Johannes and Peter of Third Wave, Edial, Kamiel, Floris and Guido of Yourneighbours, Axel, Martin, Fabian and many others who made this outstanding event reality, like all the volunteers, Heimathafen Neukölln, the speakers, the ones who gave workshops on Sunday, the attendees and of course our sponsor smart! It was great to be part of something that big.

Something that big? Yes. To be honest, I am not an expert for urbanism, open data, open government or the social impact of technology in urban life – these were mainly the topics of the conference. But I was interested – like many others. And there is one thing I learned: there may not be many experts in these fields, not yet. But there are a lot of interested and motivated people who want to participate in changing the cities into something better.

In fact that was also the last sentence of fiction writer Warren Ellis who hold a perefect closing key note on day 1:

“Whose streets are these that you’re going to be building theses cognitive cities on? Our streets.”

These are our streets, so we – the cities’ residents – need to start the change. And you can tell that starts were made already.

After listening to 12 incredible key notes, talks, and project presentations on day 1 and having great insights in existing projects on day 2 I must say: there is something big going on in the cities of the world. After day 1 I thought, it couldn’t get any better. The talks were so intense people were packed with ideas, inspiration and motivation at night. I will not give a deep insight into the talks, there are others, who did better covering of the conference already (English and German) and the videos of the talks will be online soon.

On day 2 I realized there is so much more going on right now. I was attending a workshop of Jasmin Honold and Alex Toland which dealt with the question: “How can art contribute to urban infrastructures, the well-being of the greater public, or the promotion of environmental awareness?”. I wasn’t sure what this workshop will be about but after attending it, I was amazed by the peoples’ ideas. We talked about: street art, the effect of urban art projects on people and their being, urban gardening, food behavior of urban citizens, new media projects for cities and so much more. There were such moving and alive discussions, that in fact nobody wanted to stop the workshop. After extending it for more than an hour, we decided to stop otherwise we still would be talking about the topics right now.

In my opinion you also realized that day 1 had so much interesting and inspiring input that participants had an urge to discuss about those things. I must admit, having such a conference – talks on day 1 and workshops on day 2 – was an amazing idea. Of course, there were great discussions in between the talks on day 1 as well, but the intense gatherings of interested people on day 2 were really perfect. People were exchanging inspiration and business cards, some started to talk about doing projects together, ideas were generated.

All in all I must say, that this conference was the best one I ever attended. I know I was one of the organizers and maybe it is not fair to say it, but honestly it wasn’t the organzer’s fault that it became such a blast – not only, but mainly it was the attendee’s fault. We just gave those people a platform, they did the rest.

So, thank you all for such a great weekend full of inspiration, ideas and motivation. Hope to see you next time!

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Cognitive Cities Conference – a partly true utopia